Today, the now public dispute made the Charleston papers.
From today's Daily Mail:
A former Freemason grand master is suing the West Virginia branch of the centuries-old fraternal organization and two members, alleging they defamed him after he pushed through less discriminatory and racist policies.
"These reforms and proposals were intended to rid Masonry in West Virginia of Orwellian, repressive, regressive and unconstitutional practices,'' Frank Joseph Haas alleges in his lawsuit, filed May 30 in Kanawha County Circuit Court.
Named as defendants are the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of West Virginia Inc., Masons Charles F. Coleman II and Charlie L. Montgomery, and several John Does.
Haas says Coleman, who succeeded him as grand master, voided policy changes adopted in 2006, saying the vote to approve them was flawed.
Haas also accuses Montgomery of spearheading his expulsion from the organization in November.
Montgomery did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment, and no telephone listing could be found for Coleman.
The Masons is an international secret society that promotes brotherliness, charity and mutual aid.
Haas, an administrative law judge from Brooke County, alleges the defendants insinuated he was a liar, and by doing so harmed his standing in the community and hurt his reputation.
Haas, a Mason since 1986 who became grand master in October 2005, also alleges he was not given an opportunity to defend himself against the charges.
As a result of his expulsion, Haas cannot retire to the West Virginia Masonic Home nor have a Masonic funeral with other Masons serving as pallbearers, the lawsuit alleges.
Haas is seeking reinstatement as a Mason and to have any record of his expulsion expunged. His lawsuit also seeks unspecified damages.
The Charleston Gazette also covered the story, reading in part:
Haas' lawsuit offers a glimpse into the world of the Masons, a centuries-old organization that traces its roots back to the United Kingdom. While the society is not exactly secretive, it has often been veiled in mystery, as some of its customs and practices are not revealed to non-members.
Haas joined the Masonic Lodge in Wellsburg in 1986, four years after he earned his law degree from West Virginia University. After years of dedicated service, Haas became the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge in October 2005, the suit maintains.
As Grand Master, Haas tried to make the organization's policies less discriminatory and racist and more in line with the U.S. Constitution and the state's public policy, the suit contends.
"Haas' goal was to make Masonry more tolerant, friendly, decent and accepting of everyone regardless of nationality, race, religion or disability," the suit states
In October 2006, members of the Grand Lodge voted to adopt the progressive reforms put forward by Haas, the lawsuit alleges.
"These reforms and proposals were intended to rid Masonry in West Virginia of [its] Orwellian, repressive, regressive and unconstitutional practices," the lawsuit states.
In response, Coleman, who succeeded Haas as Grand Master, "almost immediately unilaterally entered various edicts rendering the progressive proposals voted on and adopted by a majority of Defendant Grand Lodge null and void," the suit claims.
Coleman justified his actions by claiming that the vote was invalid because of procedural errors, the suit alleges. But no Masons were punished for the alleged errors, and no further votes on the reforms have been allowed since, according to Haas.
Over the next year, Haas continued to speak out about the Grand Lodge's ethical, moral and legal obligations to reform its policies, the lawsuit maintains. . .
While it is not clear whether the court has the right to tell a private organization how to conduct its business, Haas maintains that the harm done to him outweighs the Grand Lodge's "interest in autonomy and freedom from judicial oversight."
PGM Haas is represented by Charleston attorney Robert Allen, who is described in the paper as a longtime Mason. With "secret letters" from the GM to WMs across the state, and expulsions happening across WVa over members' defense of Haas, one has to seriously wonder if Brother Allen's membership is now in danger for acting in his professional capacity.
A good friend of mine has described West Virginia as becoming the "North Korea of US Freemasonry," not just over this situation, but for some of the practices and rules that WBRro. Haas attempted to change almost two years ago. It is a sad situation all the way around, and unfortunately, much of it could have been avoided by quiet, reasoned counsel instead of public hangings and escalation of hostilities. In The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce famously defined a lawsuit as "a machine which you go into as a pig and come out as a sausage." It is with no happiness that I fear that Freemasonry in West Virginia may be destined for its own seasoned sausage casing, unless this sad situation can be brought to a peaceful end by reasonable men.
Meanwhile, the tumult continues at West Virginia Masonic Crusade.
In Maxwell Anderson's screenplay for Ann of the Thousand Days, Sir Thomas More tells the king's lawyer Thomas Cromwell, "You may tell the King what he may do, and what he ought to do; but you must never tell the King what he can do. If he knew his true strength, it would be hard for any man to stop him."
There's a lesson there.